Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023
Android Phones May Have to Wait for Satellite Connectivity

Android phone users may have to wait a bit longer for satellite connectivity to assist them in emergency situations. Qualcomm has canceled its Snapdragon Satellite plans, which aimed to bring satellite connectivity to Android phones similar to Apple’s satellite SOS support introduced with the iPhone 14 series last year.

The satellite SOS support feature on iPhones allows users to text emergency responders, share locations, and request roadside assistance when they are out of cellular or broadband coverage range. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite project, which was announced earlier this year, aimed to offer a similar capability on Android phones. It was expected to be the world’s first satellite-based two-way messaging solution and was integrated into phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip.

However, Qualcomm has terminated the project, citing a lack of implementation by smartphone makers. Apple isn’t the only one offering satellite connectivity on smartphones, as Cat S75, an Android device by Bullit Group, also offers direct-to-satellite communication capabilities. MediaTek’s NTN chip enables satellite connectivity on the Cat S75.

Motorola has also partnered with Bullit Group for the Motorola Defy Satellite Link, a Bluetooth-based puck that allows any smartphone to send and receive texts over a satellite link.

One of the reasons Qualcomm’s plans faced challenges may be that Android smartphone makers preferred a standards-based solution rather than a proprietary one. Avi Greengart, a consumer technology analyst, mentioned that smartphone brands wanted a standards-based approach for more leverage in their partnerships with satellite service providers.

The future of satellite connectivity on Android phones may lie in collaborations between satellite service providers and carriers. Companies like SpaceX, Amazon with its Project Kuiper constellation, and AST SpaceMobile are working towards extending satellite connectivity to phones. SpaceX plans to offer texting facilities via satellite next year, with voice calling and internet browsing functionalities coming in 2025. Carriers, including T-Mobile, are partnering with satellite service providers to offer satellite network access without additional hardware.

While the implementation of widespread satellite-to-phone services may still take some time, the focus on standards-based approaches and collaborations is expected to pave the way for future satellite connectivity on Android phones.